Fall 2007

The Trustee communicates issues affecting libraries and library services. Once a library and systems join LTA, all their trustees automatically receive this quarterly publication published by LTA. To learn more about membership in LTA, Click Here.

Internet Access Helps, But Challenges, Libraries

By State Senator Hugh T. Farley, Chair, Senate Subcommittee on Libraries

Fall 2007 issue of Trustee

The predicted demise of public libraries as a result of the “Internet age” did not happen. In fact, according to Libraries Connect Communities, a new report from the American Library Association, libraries have become the primary community link to the Internet. Among the findings — three-quarters of public libraries report being the only source of no-charge access to computers and the Internet in their communities.

Other report findings further emphasize the role of public libraries in connecting citizens to modern information sources. Nationwide, almost all public libraries and branches are connected to the Internet, nine out of ten provide access to licensed commercial databases, and half offer wireless Internet access.

New York’s libraries are generally above national averages. Our state spends 57% more per capita on total library operating expenditures and 170% more on technology-related expenditures. For this investment, New Yorkers are more likely to find adequate connection speeds, wireless availability, Internet education resources, access to licensed commercial databases, and computer training for patrons.

On the other hand, libraries face challenges in maintaining and expanding access to electronic resources. Four out of five libraries report having too few computers to meet demand, and most face constraints of cost and space when adding computers. Nearly a third report that they simply don’t have enough electrical outlets to add more computers, while almost 30% are held back by the lack of trained staff to support additional computer users.

The State Legislature is considering several proposals to address these constraints. Two bills would help build libraries with adequate space and power/communicationsinfrastructure. S.1682 proposes a $500 million Public Library Construction and Renovation Bond Act which could be submitted for a vote at next year’s general election. S.1684 would allow smaller library construction projects (up to $5 million) to obtain low-cost loans through the State.

Two other bills propose to increase the number of trained professional librarians in our State. S.1683A would offer fifty $5,000 scholarships for library science students, while S.1687 would forgive college loans of newly-graduated librarians who work in high-needs communities.

As the ALA report notes, “... libraries have moved rapidly into Internet-based services that their communities want and need. Ongoing attention and investments must be made to ensure that these essential services provided by libraries are sustained.”

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